Geography Delineated forth in Two Bookes.

CARPENTER Nathanael (1625)

£5000.00  [First Edition]

THE "ISLAND" OF CALIFORNIA

Containing the Sphericall and Topicall Parts thereof.

 

First Edition. Small 4to (185 x 135). [18], 274, [2, blank]; [16, title-page and prelims of second part], 286, [2, errata leaf] pp., four folding woodcut tables, numerous woodcut diagrams in the text, errata leaf and the poem "To my Booke" but without the blank leaf Nn*4. Folding tables a little torn and creased, some corners folded, a little browned in places (especially the second part). Contemporary Oxford binding of reversed calf ?by Henry Cripps [see below], covers ruled in blind, spine ruled in blind (with blind hatching at the head and foot), pastedowns unstuck revealling printer's waste formed of incunable leaves from a Vulgate NT (upper joint split at the head, leather a little stained in places).

 

Oxford: by John Lichfield and William turner, Printers to the famous University for Henry Cripps, 1625

STC 4676. A second edition was published in 1625. Of the 10 or so copies recorded on Rare Book Hub the majority were lacking at least one folding table (The Macclesfield copy was lacking two of the folding tables). 

 

Carpenter's wide-ranging study of both mathematical and topographical geography with references to the "island" of California and the possibility of a Northwest Passage. In a contemporary Oxford binding and purchased directly from the Oxford bookseller, Henry Cripps. 

 

The book is divided into two parts. In the first Carpenter deals primarily with mathematical principles concerning the earth as a whole and this section is illustrated with various woodcut diagrams including a large compass on p.150. Carpenter refers repeatedly to William Gilbert's De magnete (1600) and Edward Wright's Certaine Errors in Navigation (first published in 1599 and enlarged in 1610). Carpenter refers to experiments with magnetic compasses and remarks "This hath bin found in all parts of the Earth by such as have travelled round about her, as Drake and Candish [Cavendish], whose Compasses were always directed Magnetically in all places which they passed: which we cannot ascribe to any other cause then the disponent faculty of the Earth's Magneticall Spheare" (p.46). When discussing magentic variation he notes "if we saile by the American coasts, we shall rather find the variation to be Westward: as for example, if a voyage be made from the confines of Terra Florida, by Virginia, Norumbega..." (p.63). 

 

The second part is much more discursive and deals with, amongst other subjects, the habitability of the world, hydrography, climate, different terrain and the inhabitants of various parts of the earth ("the extreame Inhabitants towards the Poles are more naturally inclined to mechanicall works and martial endeavours: the extreame towards the Aequator to workes of Religion and Contemplation: the middle to lawes and civility"). 

 

In this second section Carpenter refers to how "California, of late, [has been] thought to be a part of the Continent [of America] (II p.115).

 

He also discusses the possibility of a Northwest Passage: "The onely matter which troubles men in this age, is the finding out of a passage Northward to Cathay, either by the North-east, or North-west, wherein we will consider two things: 1. Whether it be likely, that any such passage should be at all? 2. whether this passage should be performed by the North-East or North-West. For the former many arguments are urged which seeme to crosse their opinion, or a way to the Indies towrds the North parts: for 1. the manifold attempts of the English and Hollanders, both towards the North East and North West, either altogether spent in paine or failing of their ends, seemes to give large testimonie, if not of absolute impossibiliy, yet at least of the unlikelyhood of any such discovery as is hoped, For what cost of dangers would not almost all Marriners of our Northerne world undergoe to find so neare a cut to their golden Indies" (p.118).  

 

Carpenter also discusses - in reference to the Northwest Passage and the "island" of California - his use of a "curious Mappe not long since set out by our worth and learned Professour Mr Brigges". This is Henry Briggs' map of North America ("one of the most important maps of the seventeenth century" (Wallis)) which is found in Samuel Purchas' Pilgrimes (Vol 3; published in 1625). Briggs' map was the first map to show California as an island; an error derived from a manuscript map of 1620 by Fr. Antonio Ascension based on earlier Spanish reports which were intercepted by the Dutch and had only been previously depicted in a tiny vignette on the title of a Dutch book of 1622. Purchas's map "did more than anyone to popularize the concept of the island of California" (Wallis). Carpenter remains sceptical though and notes: "That California is an Island, it may (for ought I know) be well warranted: But the evidence drawne from the Spanish Chart, seemes rather to cherish hope, then perswade consent" (p.131).

 

Carpenter apologises in the errata for the "Printers negligence seconded with my oversight and ragged hand, [which] makes me seeme guilty of so many errours as are expressed in the former Table...I must excuse my selfe for one Diagram wanting in the second booke in the 63 page, (without the which the sense is very obscure) where in the urgent importunacy of the Stationer, the sicknesse in London, and other crosse accidents prevented me" (Oo*1r). 

 

Provenance: 1. Thomas Gore, acquisition note "Oxoniae" Crippes: praet 8s [crossed through] / 3:6d / Anno Domni 1629". Henry Cripps was a bookseller, stationer and bookbinder who operated in Oxford between c.1620-40 9 (where he published the first and second editions of Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621 and 1624). He later moved to London and had a shop in Pope's Head Alley between 1650 and 1661. This is one of the "few dozen" books printed for Cripps by the university printers (see Ian Gadd and Simon Eliot, History of Oxford University Press: Volume I: Beginnings to 1780, OUP, 2013 p. 556). The fact that the book was still in stock four years after publication may have prompted Cripps to reduce the price but a decade later demand was sufficient to prompt a second edition (STC 4677). 2. Frances Martin, ownership inscription on the front flyleaf reading "This booke pertayne now to Frances Martin of Nantes" and signature on the title-page "Francoys Martin de Nantes". Beneath Martin's ownership note on the flyleaf is part of a prayer by Francis of Assisi in French: (trans.) "We have promised great things: greater things are promised to us..."

 

Later Provenance: Martin Woolf Orskey (1952-2018), bookseller, Orskey's initials in blue pen on the inside of the lower board. Orskey's library was sold by Dominic Winter Auctioneers in June 2019.

 

See: J.N.L. Baker, "Nathanael Carpenter and English Geography in the Seventeenth Century", The Geographical Journal, Mar., 1928, Vol. 71, No. 3, pp. 261-271.

Stock Code: 233069

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